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Personalisation for people from black and minority ethnic groups

The term ‘personalisation’ means different things to different people but, as used both by the previous Labour and current Coalition governments, it is about tailoring services to people’s own circumstances and giving them more control over the amount and type of support they receive. This briefing looks at how personalisation can increase access to healthcare for people from black and minority ethnic communities, but also considers some of the challenges that it may bring.

Key messages:

  • Personalisation is a government policy aimed at giving people more choice and control over their lives.  In the context of health and social care, it is about making services more tailored to people’s individual needs using different mechanisms, including cash sums to purchase support for daily living activities (variously termed personal budgets, direct payments, or self-directed support) and other ways of managing assistance on behalf of individuals.
  • Personalisation potentially offers people from black and minority ethnic groups the opportunity to arrange services that fit better with their ethnic, cultural, religious values and preferences.
  • Unfortunately, research about personalisation is very variable in the extent to which it reports on service users’ ethnicity.  Although personalisation generally offers benefits for most service users in terms of greater choice and an increased sense of control, studies often fail to report if these experiences vary between different ethnic groups or if there are different outcomes.
  • The research that does exist suggests that people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are generally willing to try personal budgets once they have been made aware of how they work.
  • The area in which we do have more information on differential uptake is in mental health.  Uptake of personal budgets in mental health services appears to be low across all ethnic groups.  Organisations advocating on behalf of people from black and minority ethnic groups with mental health problems argue that their negative experiences of mental health services may act as an additional disincentive towards trying personal budgets.
  • Black and minority ethnic community organisations play an important role in helping people from their communities benefit from personalisation.  The impact of spending cuts on the sustainability of black and minority ethnic third sector organisations needs to be monitored to ensure that people from black and minority ethnic communities are able to benefit fully from personalisation.
  • There is a need for more research on the impacts that personalisation has had for black and minority ethnic people employed in the social care workforce.
  • Over time, the meaning of personalisation seems to have narrowed.  Early arguments in favour of personalisation emphasised its benefits in terms of prevention and in the opportunities it gave for people using social care services to participate more fully in society as a whole.  More recent experiences suggest that it has sometimes been operationalised in less flexible ways than those originally intended.


  • Introduction
  • Can personalisation help people from black and minority ethnic groups?
  • Uptake of personal budgets
  • Outcomes of personalisation
  • Carers and personal budgets
  • Personalisation and the black and minority ethnic third sector
  • Personalisation and the workforce
  • Discussion
View document

Author(s): Jo Moriarty
Briefing series: Better Health Briefing Paper 34
Publisher: Race Equality Foundation
Publication date: July 2014